Dennis Eckersley (Indians-Red Sox Game 1 Chat)October 12, 2007
Game time is still quite a ways away (7:07 ET, FOX), but I couldn’t sleep much last night and now I’m up and all I can think about are Indians.
One of the first things I saw this morning after not sleeping was an article in the Boston Globe entitled “They’ve had some chief concerns,” in which Dan Shaughnessy wonders what Jacoby Ellsbury thinks of Chief Wahoo. It might be an interesting follow-up to readers of yesterday’s interview with historian Akim Reinhardt. A high point for me is when the customarily pompous and oblivious Shaughnessy seems to dismiss all cultural controversies over sports team names by concluding a listing of some of the controversies with the declaration, “For all I know, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are offended by the Minnesota Twins.”
Anyway, here’s Chief Wahoo himself riding on the shoulder of the Eck, shown here in the first of his many lives in major league baseball (those lives being, in order, young flamethrower for the lackluster Indians, ace and would-be savior of the powerful but pitching-desparate Red Sox, washed-up meatballer for the Cubs, Hall of Fame-caliber bullpen ace of the A’s, and, finally, journeyman reliever-for-hire). On the back of this card I see that he played his first season of pro ball in Reno at the age of 17. The following year, also in Reno, he struck out over 200 batters, and by the age of 20 was in the major leagues. In this photo he is 21 or maybe 22, and he already has 26 big league wins and is months away from pitching a no-hitter. His storied early success with the Indians makes his trade to the Red Sox seem, in retrospect, a bit like the more recent coming of Josh Beckett to Boston. In Eck’s first season with the Red Sox, 1978, he seemed to be the final huge piece of the World Series Championship puzzle, the brilliant young ace they needed to complement their aging resident Big Game Pitcher (in this analogy, Beckett is Eck and Curt Schilling is Luis Tiant). In the end Eckersley’s worthy efforts–he won 20 games in 1978–were not quite enough to win the division for the Red Sox, who fell in a one-game playoff to the Yankees, just as they had 30 years earlier in a one-game playoff against, who else, the Indians. That year the Indians went on to beat their partners in questionable baseball team names, the Braves, in the World Series, their last such triumph. They came close in the 1990s but always seemed to lack that dominating ace, their hitting-rich teams resembling the pre-Eck Red Sox of the 1970s. Now they have not one but two aces every bit as good as Eck ever was or Josh Beckett is, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have, after Beckett, an old man who has lost his fastball, a knuckleballer with a bad back, and a rookie from Japan who seems to have run out of gas months ago.
It’s no wonder I couldn’t sleep much last night.